05 June 2010
Was Mary Boleyn the pretty sister? I suppose it might depend on whose opinion one chooses to rely on. If pretty is as pretty does, Anne was the winner as she was vivacious, sensuous, flirtatious. There are no such reports on Mary. Sadly, the only thing Mary had a solid reputation for was her alleged wantonness.
Anne would have been the captain of the cheer leading squad, had she lived in this modern era. Still, Mary wouldn't have lacked for dates had she been a high
school girl in the 21 century. But she lacked Anne's verve. Mary was said to have been fair-haired, a physical trait highly valued in Tudor times. (Of course, I'm not sure how much that has changed. Marilyn Monroe?) It is clear, for whatever reason, that King Henry's eye fell on Mary first. The degree of intensity of the affair between Mary and the king is debatable, and for the most part, unknown. Many historians now believe that King Henry fathered at least one of Mary's children. They certainly bore physical resemblance to Elizabeth, more so than is typical for cousins.
In any case, while Mary may have lacked the sharp intelligence and forceful personalty or her sister, she was not without self-determination. Mary was astute enough to have Thomas Gardiner appointed to Tynmouth Priory. Her husband was the beneficiary of several royal grants in 1522-1525. There may have been several reasons behind the King's largess. He may have truly appreciated Mary's discretion, or perhaps he believed, correctly or not that Mary's children were his own. Certainly, Mary's relationship with the king ended on good terms.
It has been said many times, that ultimately, Mary was the luckiest of the Boleyn children. It seems that Mary's willingness to quietly fade into the background was her saving grace.